NSU graduate students to relocate to off-campus housing

PRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM M. GREER NSU graduate students will not be allowed to live in the Rolling Hills apartments for the 2018-2019 school yea

On Feb. 23, students living in the Rolling Hills graduate apartments were notified in  an email from Brad Williams, vice president of student affairs and dean of the college of undergraduate studies, that they will not be able to live in the apartments for the 2018-2019 school year.

Williams explained that the Rolling Hills apartments, which were originally designated to house graduate students, will instead be used to house the growing undergraduate population, particularly juniors and seniors.

“The decision was made probably about a week [before the email was sent] … we were monitoring the potential number of incoming undergraduates to see whether or not we would be able to accommodate housing for all undergraduates,” said Williams.

Williams said it became apparent that a choice would have to be made between choosing to have undergraduate juniors and seniors live off-campus or not renew housing contracts for graduate students.

“This year, we had the biggest incoming class in history. We had this big incoming class … so it’s created a housing crunch for us,” said Williams.

Williams said the decision was made in conjunction with President Hanbury and other senior executives to convert the Rolling Hills graduate apartments into housing units for upperclassmen.

According to Aarika Camp, associate dean of student services and director of residential life and housing, the Founders, Farquhar and Vettel (FFV) and Cultural Living Center (CLC)  living arrangements will remain the same.

Rolling Hills apartments will still offer  options for quadruples and singles. However, NSU’s Residential Life and Housing is determining how many single studios can be converted into doubles for students that would like another price point.

“The decision was to provide a housing option for upper class undergraduate students which resulted in displacing graduate students,” said Camp. “It may seem as though we are arbitrarily removing graduate students, when in fact, this was a very difficult decision as we care about all students. The decision came down to the developmental needs of undergraduate students that are still navigating adulthood and independence. This was also intended to be a temporary decision for this upcoming academic year.”

Camp said that while the staff of Residential Life and Housing understood that having on-campus housing options was beneficial to graduate students, and graduate housing options will be available for the 2019-2020 school year, this was also a unique opportunity for NSU to grow toward the Vision 2020 goal.  

“I so appreciate that our undergraduate students are supporting our graduate students and empathizing with them having to move off [campus],” said Camp. “I think that this does reflect our movement toward being One NSU at the student level.”

Camp said that housing assignments for the Fall 2019 semester will be determined based on factors including whether that particular student will be required to live on campus — as with Razor’s Edge and Presidential Premiere students —  how many credit hours they have, as well as the student’s age.

Students who have more than 48 credits but less than 60 credits who are not required to live on campus may be allowed to live in the FFV and CLC provided that there are available units after students who are required to live on campus have been assigned rooms.

“We will maintain a waitlist just as we did this year,” said Camp. “Students will be able to select their own rooms this year. This was feedback that we have receive over last couple of years. We have appreciated the feedback and made the modifications for our system to allow self-selection during designated periods.”

According to Deanna Voss, dean of undergraduate admissions, the target size for the incoming freshman class and incoming transfer class are 1150  and 355 students, respectively.

“Undergraduate admissions’ mission is to meet the strategic plan for the university that is laid out in the Vision 2020,” said Voss. “Part of that plan is to enroll 2020 new incoming undergraduate students — 1505 freshmen and 515 transfers — in the year 2020.”

Voss said that each year, NSU’s strategic goal has been to increase enrollment by approximately 15 percent at the undergraduate level to meet the 2020 goal. In the Fall 2017 semester, NSU enrolled 994 freshmen and 265 transfer students.

However, students like Mykella Mitchell, graduate business student, who planned on living in the Rolling Hills apartments until she completed her program next semester in the fall, said that this decision was not made in the interest of NSU’s graduate population.

“The most frustrating part is knowing that they waited so long to tell us because they knew the last incoming class was enormous and it’s only going to continue to grow; that’s how universities work,”said Mitchell. “So, instead of giving us a heads up then, that they [NSU] might have been taking some corrective action in order to place everybody, they waited until almost the end of February to say anything to anyone and now [NSU is only] giving students four and a half months to get everything done and how do you pay for that? Loans can only go so far.”

Williams said that while he could sympathize with the graduate population who are impacted, he believed that NSU has done its best to address some of their concerns by implementing five key points of assistance. According to Williams:

  1. NSU has contracted with local apartment complexes to provide “NSU specials”  like waivers for deposits or the first month off rent.
  2. Every graduate student who requested a housing renewal will be assigned a “housing concierge” who is based in Residential Life and Housing who will create individualized off-campus housing options.
  3. NSU has scheduled an off-campus housing fair on March 30 where representatives from the partnering complexes will be available from 5 – 7 p.m. to speak with students about the available housing options.
  4. NSU has contracted a private realtor who specializes in private leasings such as condominium rentals who will be at the disposal of the displaced graduate students.
  5. NSU will pay for the moving costs for graduate students who are moving to a living space within a 10-mile radius.

However, Mitchell who relocated to Florida to attend NSU stated that these offerings are not enough.

“NSU is saying that they’ll help you find a place but this area is very, very expensive to live [in] and I don’t have a car so that makes it very stressful,” said Mitchell. “I’m limited to where I can move to and that also maximizes how much I’ll end up paying. I’m weighing my options because it’s either I stay down here and find a roommate [and a job] with steady income, or go home.”

Sara Staley, graduate clinical psychology student,  started a petition with the aim of reversing the decision to remove housing for NSU’s residential graduate population.

“This hits me pretty hard. I still have three years after this one, followed by a year of internship, so at minimum I had been planning to live on campus another three years,” said Staley. “The fact that Rolling Hills was offered for graduate students as an affordable housing option played a huge role in my decision to attend NSU for grad school.”  

Staley said she began the petition with several other students to make sure she properly conveyed the messaged.  

“At this point, given the fact that NSU has already changed their website and appear firm in their decision, I cannot really say whether or not they are going to reverse this choice. So, at this point, myself and the students who helped make this are hoping for concessions,” said Staley.

Among the list of concessions are petitions for waivers provided by NSU for credit checks and application fees, discounted or waived summer housing options as well as an opportunity for graduate students to have a forum to speak with NSU representatives about the decision.

“NSU hasn’t really announced that they were going to do a town hall specifically for this and I wish they would because maybe we could clear the air,” said Mitchell. “The most we got was at the end of March we’re going to have a housing fair — which might be too late for some people who might have already decided to end their program or switch to another school, go home or try to work it out.”